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in the Spirituality 

of Jesuits 

The Authentic Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: 
Some Facts of History and Terminology Basic to 

Their Functional Efficacy Today 

George E. Ganss, S.J. 

Published by the American Assistancy Seminar on Jesuit Spirituality, 
especially for American Jesuits working out their aggiornamento 

in the spirit of Vatican Council II 

Vol. 1 November, 19G9 No. 2 


in the Spirituality 

of Jesuits 

The Authentic Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: 
Some Facts of History and Terminology Basic to 

Their Functional Efficacy Today 

George E. Ganss, S.J. 

Published by the American Assistancy Seminar on Jesuit Spirituality, 
especially for American Jesuits working out their aggiornamento 

in the spirit of Vatican Council II 

Vol. 1 November, 1969 No. 2 


consists of a group of Jesuits from various provinces who are listed below, 
The members were appointed by the Fathers Provincial of the United States, 
in their meeting of October 3~9, 1968. The purpose of the Seminar is to 
study topics pertaining to the spiritual doctrine and practice of Jesuits, 
especially American Jesuits, and to communicate the results to the members 
of the Assistancy. The hope is that this will lead to further discussion 
among all American Jesuits - in private, or in small groups, or in commun- 
ity meetings. All this is done in the spirit of Vatican Council II 1 s rec- 
ommendation to religious institutes to recapture the original charismatic 
inspiration of their founders and to adapt it to the changed circumstances 
of modern times. The members of the Seminar welcome reactions or comments 
in regard to the topics they publish. 

To achieve these purposes, especially amid today's pluralistic cul- 
tures, the Seminar must focus its direct attention sharply, frankly, and 
specifically on the problems, interests, and opportunities of the Jesuits 
of the United States. However, many of these interests are common also 
to Jesuits of other regions, or to other priests, religious men or women, 
or lay men or women. Hence the studies of the Seminar, while meant 
especially for American Jesuits, are not exclusively for them. Others who 
may find them helpful are cordially welcome to read them. 


William J. Burke, S.J., Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass. 02167 

Thomas E. Clarke, S.J., Woodstock College, Woodstock, Maryland 21163 

James J. Doyle, S.J., Bellarmine School of Theology, 230 S. Lincoln 
Way, North Aurora, Illinois 605^2 

John C. Futrell, S.J., School of Divinity, St. Louis University, 
200 North Spring. St. Louis, Missouri 63108 

George E. Ganss, S.J., The Institute of Jesuit Sources, Fusz Memorial, 
3700 West Pine, St. Louis, Missouri 63108 (Chairman of 
the Assistancy Seminar, and Editor of its Studies) 

Hugo J. Gerleman, S.J., The Institute of Jesuit Sources, Fusz Memorial, 
3700 West Pine, St. Louis, Missouri 63108 (Secretary of 
the Assistancy Seminar) 

John C. Haughey, S.J., America Staff, 106 West 56th St., New York, 
New York 10019 

David B. Knight, S.J., St. Charles College, Grand Coteau, La. 705^1 

Vincent J. O'Flaherty, S.J., St. Stanislaus Seminary, Florissant, 
Missouri 63032 

John R. Sheets, S.J., Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233 

John H. Wright, S.J., Jesuit School of Theology, 1735 LeRoy Street, 
Berkeley, California 9^709 

Copyright, 1969, by the American Assistancy Seminar on Jesuit Spirituality 

Fusz Memorial, St. Louis University, 
3700 West Pine Boulevard 
St. Louis, Missouri 631 08 




and Terminology Basic to Their Functional Efficacy Today 


Introductory: The purpose and the problem 1 

I. The authentic Exercises in practice until Ignatius' death, 1556 4 

A. The primal power or inner dynamics of the authentic Exercises 4 

B. The art form through which Ignatius communicated his experience 8 

1 . The terminology 8 

2. The authentic and integral Exercises in practice 10 

3. Authentic adaptations of the integral Exercises before 1556 
II. The chief adaptations of the art form after 1556 13 

A. Repetitions of the Exercises 14 

B. The Exercises given to assembled groups 15 

C. Some difficulties arisising from the adaptations 16 

D. The terminology in official documents from 1556 until today 17 
III. The practice of the authentic Exercises for today 20 

A. The authentic and integral Exercises 21 

B. Adaptations which are still authentic Ignatian Exercises 22 

C. Further adaptations inspired by the Exercises 23 

1 . Some problems and challenges 2k 

2 . The authentic Exercises and those of the Movement for 

a Better World 28 

Concluding reflections ~y\ 


The Authentic Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: 
Some Pacts of History and Terminology Basic to 
Their Functional Efficacy Today 


George E. Ganss, S.J. 

The Institute of Jesuit Sources 

Pusz Memorial 

3700 West Pine Boulevard 

St. Louis, Missouri 6^108 

Introductory: the purpose and the problem 

The aim of the present study is to set forth a brief synthesis of 
our present knowledge of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loy- 
ola, that is, to present a resume which incorporates the most important 
information which modern research has furnished. Or in other words, the 
aim is to present an assembly of considerations which seem particularly 
relevant and basic to the functional efficacy of these authentic Exer- 
cises today. Toward achieving this hope and purpose, we shall discuss 
the primal power of the authentic Exercises of Ignatius and the art form 
through which he endeavored to communicate their dynamic force. Then we 
shall present in chronological order the most important evolutions in 
terminology and practice which took place, especially those after his 
death in 1556. Hopefully this procedure will be helpful, first, toward 
furthering the restoration of the practice of the authentic Spiritual 
Exercises of Ignatius which is fortunately arising today, and second, 
toward enabling retreat masters to walk more securely in their efforts 
to solve some vexing problems connected with the adaptations which Igna- 
tius 1 little book inspired after his death. 

This study is presented as a position paper. That is, the writer 

takes a stand in which he sincerely believes, presents it with a view to 
stimulating informed discussion, and professes willingness to revise his 
opinions according to light which the discussion may furnish. 

Much though not all of the point of the present study can be given 
by means of a homely comparison. When one likes pie but cannot obtain a 
whole pie, he praiseworthily takes whatever fraction he can get. But if 
he finds his quarter-pie unable to give all the nourishment of the whole, 
he should not blame the quarter which yields all that can be reasonably 
expected of it. Much less should he blame the whole pie for the lower 
yield of the part. He would do well, however, to devise means of obtain- 
ing a whole pie when he can, even if the occasions be relatively few. 
Moreover, if either advertiser or customer has somehow used terms ob- 
scurely and thus unwittingly led people to expect from a fraction the 
nourishment which only the whole can give, with subsequent complaints 
about an "over-sell," it would be wise to remedy the obscurity. 

All of us have heard complaints roughly similar to these: "I find 
the annual retreat which I must make, when done according to the Igna- 
tian Spiritual Exercises, repetitious, dull, and uninspiring. I know in 
advance what the retreat master will say to me and my companions about 
this or that exercise. I am a Jesuit of the twentieth century (or per- 
haps, a nun, a brother, a priest, a layman, a laywoman) , and the various 
parables or figures, such as a King or Two Standards, are no longer fresh 
or relevant. The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises have been over-praised." 
Murmurings such as these have contributed toward bringing these Exercises 
into considerable disfavor among some Jesuits as well as in other circles 
where they were formerly esteemed. 

In many instances these grievances may be correct in regard to some 
of the adaptations which gradually evolved from Ignatius 1 Exercises after 
his death and were praiseworthy in their circumstances. But these com- 
plaints are not valid of his authentic and integral Spiritual Exercises 
as they were made until 1556 or somewhat later, and as they can be made 
today. Our knowledge of how they were made during Ignatius 1 lifetime 

has been vastly expanded by modern research, especially that published 
by Fathers Iparraguirre in 19^6 and De Guibert in 1953* 

It seems to the present writer that those complaints and the situ- 


ation generating them have arisen in no small measure from an "over-sell." 
Terminology became ambiguous or confused. Statements valid only of Igna- 
tius* full authentic Exercises were unwittingly applied by writers and 
speakers, or at least by their readers and hearers, to the later adapta- 
tions. When the results fell short of the promises, discontent arose. 
Sometimes the form or external framework of the Exercises drew too much 
attention to itself, to some suffocation of their inner dynamism. Some- 
times, too, these adaptations, such as the annual eight-day retreat, did 
not receive the further adaptation they needed to keep them effective in 
new circumstances. This is partially explained by the fact that retreat 
masters feared that they might violate prescriptions of modern fathers 
general, or that their retreats would cease to be the genuine Ignatian 
Exercises. Clarification of this terminology may well be an aid in im- 
proving the effectiveness of Ignatius' Exercises today. 

One caution is in order here. The present study is confined strictly 
to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. There are many other praise- 
worthy forms of retreats within the Church, all of them truly excellent 
and effective for their purposes. The present writer sincerely admires 
them. To depreciate them in any way is far from his intention. But, 
with a few exceptions which will be obvious in the context, they are out- 
side the scope of his statements here as well as of his adequate knowledge.' 
This study deals, in fact, with what is basically, though not exclusively, 
a family problem which slowly and rather imperceptibly grew up through 
several centuries inside the Society of Jesus. Unless it is tackled pre- 
cisely as such a family problem and pointedly and frankly, this study 
could easily weaken into ineffective generalities rather than come to 
grips with the necessary specific details. However, we happily have many 

1 The footnotes and list of abbreviations are below, on page 35« 

non- Jesuit friends interested in the nature or history of Ignatius 1 
Exercises. Possibly they too will find this study helpful, and they are 
cordially welcome to read it. They will soon observe, we know, that its 
dominant motive is to comply with the Vatican Council's recommendation 
that religious institutes restudy the primitive spirit of their founders. 

The topic will be treated in these divisions: (i) What the au- 
thentic and integral Exercises were in practice until approximately 
1556 — including the history of the terminology; (il) the chief adap- 
tations originating after 1556 — including some difficulties arising 
from the adaptations and the terminology in official documents; 
(ill) the practice of the authentic Exercises for today — including 
discussion of a few other forms of retreats and the exercises of the 
Movement for a Better World. 

I. The authentic Exercises in practice until Ignatius' death, 1556 
A. The primal power or inner dynamics of the authentic Exercises 
The wellspring of these Spiritual Exercises was an intense religious 
experience deep in Ignatius' soul, an experience produced chiefly by God 
but with his willing cooperation. Ignatius underwent a change of heart 
which made him a lover of God and men, as eager as the bride in the Can- 
ticle of Canticles to tell the wonders of this love. Henceforth he felt 
an inner urge to communicate his experience, that is, to share it with 
others and excite them to do what they could to bring on a roughly similai 
experience within themselves. He well knew, of course, that it had to be 
their experience, not his - something as personal and unique within them 
as his was inside himself. To effect this communication he had to have 
recourse, like any love-poet, to artistic forms: some sort of framework 
of organized words and sentences. Into these media, as he dealt with 
other men or women one by one, he poured the intense feeling which had lee 
him to catch fire and which, he then found, somehow with God's aid enkin- 
dled his hearers too. A holy man was dealing with open-minded friends. 
Whether he noticed it or not, his own strong personality coupled with his 
sincere love of God and men set up non-verbal communication perhaps more 

effective than his words in moving his hearers to exercise themselves in 
similar religious experiences. In the sum total of these factors or 
forces we find the primal power, the inner dynamics, the throbbing and 


life-giving heart of the Spiritual Exercises which Ignatius gradually- 
devised from 1522 at Manresa until 15^-8 at Rome, when his sheaf of notes 
became his published book. 

Already in this capsule description we notice a distinction between 
the primal power of his Exercises and the art form through which he com- 
municated it. As we proceed to examine more in detail what the authentic 
Spiritual Exercises were in his lifetime and still are today, we shall be 
aided by focussing our attention more sharply on that distinction. 

Ignatius' intense religious experience included an outlook, mysti- 
cally granted beside the Cardoner in 1522, by which he habitually viewed 
all things as coming forth from God and leading men back to Him. Ignatius 
made himself extraordinarily open to God, who in turn communicated Himself 
to him most abundantly. His intense spiritual experience, one prolonged 
throughout his life, was made up of a series of component experiences. 
These included a conversion, scruples, consolation and desolation, influ- 
ences proceeding from good and evil spirits, an effort to discern the one 
kind from the other, and entrancing mystical favors which Ignatius desig- 
nated simply by his comprehensive terms, "devotion" and "finding God." 
To Da Camara he dictated, only a year before his death, that "he had fre- 
quently offended our Lord after he had begun to serve Him, but he had 
never consented to a mortal sin* On the contrary, he had gone on contin- 
ually increasing in devotion, that is, in facility to find God, and now 
more than ever in all his life. And every time and at any hour that he 
wished to find God, he found Him. And now too he had visions, especially 
such as those which were mentioned earlier, in which he beheld Christ as 

a sun. And this often happened to him when he was about to speak of 

important things, and the vision came to confirm him. That is also why 

it was so natural for him to put into a letter: "I beg you to make your- 
selves ready for His visitation and spiritual treasures with purity of 

heart, with true humility, with one mind and will among you, and with 

outward and inward peace, namely that peace which makes Him who is 

called Prince of Peace to dwell and to reign in the soul. 

As his inner urge to share his love-experience with others drove him 
on, he cast about for means to lead them to seek and find similar exhil- 
arating experiences for themselves. Prom time to time he jotted down 
notes of what he told them, and thus he little by little devised an art- 
form, the procedures and literary framework of the Exercises. 

Already during his early studies at Alcala in 1527, he "also worked 

at giving spiritual exercises" to some women, "and by this means he 

brought forth fruit to God's glory." A few months later at Salamanca, 

he turned over to Bachelor Frias "all his papers, which were the Exer- 

cises, for examination." Statements such as these reveal that, to 

guide others through these exercises, he had a gradually expanding sheaf 

of notes. He told Da Camara, also in 1555, that "he had not composed all 

the Exercises at one time, but that certain things which he observed in 

his own soul and found useful to himself, he thought might also be useful 

for others, and so he put them down in writing, such as the examination 

of conscience. . . . The elections in particular ... he had drawn from 

those changes of spirit and thought which he had when he was at Loyola 

still nursing his wounded leg." 

By these procedures Ignatius created a combination of an intense 
religious experience and an art form to communicate it to others. This 
form included, first, the series of exercises as made by his successive 
exercitants, and then his notes as they gradually expanded until they 
were the published book. About the nature of this combination many 
capable writers have expressed their opinions, which naturally differ 
like the interpretations of Vergil's Aeneid or Shakespeare's Hamlet. 
Here it suffices to recall, by large, bold strokes, only a few samples 
of important factors which various writers have stressed. There is a 
sequence of themes which puts before the exercitant the whole history of 
salvation: God's communication of Himself, man's response of sin, God's 

new communication of Himself in Christ — all arranged to stimulate the 
retreatant to make his personal response of love which will prove itself 
by deeds. There is a logical sequence of topics which is well calculated 
to produce a strong psychological impact of total commitment to God. ' 
This sequence is a march through conversion toward surrender to God 
through generous love, a whole series of stirring experiences for the 
exercitant. The Exercises are a school of prayer. In their entirety, 
they are addressed only to willing or eager exercitants, whom they stim- 
ulate to open themselves to the Holy Spirit 1 s advances; to seek God ! s 
will and carry it out with vigor; to come to big decisions like the 
choice of a state of life without being moved by disordered affections; 
to desire to know, love, and follow Christ, come pleasure come pain, 
without being moved by disordered attachments, and to cooperate with Him 
in achieving His redemptive plan; to carry on by one's own inner energies 
in cooperation with God ! s grace. These and similar opinions vary in em- 
phasis. But generally they supplement rather than contradict one another, 
and there is little need to choose one above another. They form a treas- 
ure chest from which a director can select what is most helpful in 
accordance with his own personality or the needs of his successive exer- 
citants . 

Thus in many respects the Exercises can be compared to a literary 
masterpiece. For example, a seer such as Shakespeare has a vision of 
human love, a vivid experience within himself. He expresses it by means 
of an art form, the drama of Romeo and Juliet, to enable many specta- 
tors to have much the same vivid experience within themselves. But ever 
afterwards his play is treated differently by successive directors or 
teachers. One of them recaptures and relives Shakespeare's vision, 
assuredly according to his personal interpretation; and he communicates 
it to spectators or students who become similarly thrilled. Another 
gains extensive knowledge of all the technicalities of the dramatic frame- 
work and follows them exactly. Yet he somehow gets bogged down by them, 
and his spectators or students find the play dull. So is it with 
Ignatius' Exercises . One director himself finds God through them. He 


becomes a man of God and can use them as a means which stimulates others 
too to acquire a profound spiritual experience of their own. Another may 
know and love Ignatius' art form well but somehow become too engrossed 
with its details. His very eagerness to be faithful to them may lead him 
to regard the little book more as a code of laws to be faithfully ob- 
served than as a means to the end of the Exercises, excitation of a 
conversion experience within this exercitant. The form can attract too 
much importance to itself, to the detriment of the primal power or reli- 
gious experience which it was intended to communicate. The recurrence 
of this phenomenon has been a commonplace in the history of the arts, 
especially after periods of creativity. Here, then, was a danger which 
Ignatius 1 Exercises could hardly escape. 

B. The art form through which Ignatius communicated his experience 
The primal power of Ignatius' Exercises and the art form he con- 
trived to communicate it formed a close and harmonious union, comparable 
to that between soul and body. The primal power was far more important 
than the art form. This form, being an assembly of procedures, direc- 
tives, and the like, was a means to the end of the authentic Exercises, 
interior religious experience. Yet in history after Ignatius' death, 
most of the difficulties have been connected with this form. Hence, 
most of our remaining space will be devoted to it. 

1 „ The terminology 
In the history of Christian spirituality from about 750 until the 
appearance in 1500 of Abbot Garcia Cisneros' Ejercitatorio de la vida 
espiritual at Montserrat, the words "spiritual exercises" ( exercitia 
spiritualia) were used with great frequency to designate the activities, 
training, and counsels which pertain to the practice of the spiritual 
life. The terms rarely differed much in meaning from Ignatius' own defi- 
nition ( Spiritual Exercises , [l]): "by the name of spiritual exercises 
is meant every manner of examining one's conscience, meditating, contem- 
plating, praying vocally or mentally, and other spiritual activities 


by which progress is made-" 

These terms, therefore, were used to express a wide and fluid 
meaning, which they have retained until the present. Within the Society 
of Jesus, however, another more restricted and technical meaning grad- 
ually arose inside the stream of earlier usage: the spiritual exercises 
( los ejercicios esoirituales . exercitia spiritualia) employed as terms 
denoting the particular sequence of exercises through which Ignatius 
guided exercitants such as Xavier or Pavre at Paris in the 1530's. 
After 15^-8 the terms acquired still another meaning: Ignatius 1 printed 
book. That book arose out of the sheaf of notes in Spanish which he had 
gradually expanded ( Autobiography , no. 99) while he guided exercitants 
and adapted his presentations to their individual needs. In these notes 
the terms occurred often and in their traditional sense, that is, merely 

to designate the exercitant's activities. An example is, "en los ejer- 

cicios que se siguen." Then in time the words were used as the title 

of the book: Exercitia spiritualia , or Los ejercicios espirituales , 

often translated into English as Spiritual Exercises or The Spiritual 

Exercises of St t Ignatius . 

Both usages of the terms, the wider, more ancient one and the tech- 
nical one to indicate Ignatius' sequence or his printed book, have 
persisted side by side from roughly 1535 until now. Further still, the 
book itself provided (in Annotations 18 and 19) for adaptations, selec- 
tions, and abbreviations, and these adaptations or selections too were 
referred to as "the spiritual exercises." Hence there were at least four 
different objects all designated by the one term, "los ejercicios espir- 
tuales." The way was open for readers to read the wrong meanings into a 
writer's terms and acquire fuzzy concepts. 

In the present article, the writer will use the following editorial 
distinctions for the sake of clarity: spiritual exercises (lower case) 
to mean any spiritual activities; the Spiritual Exercises (capitalized) 
to mean Ignatius' sequence of spiritual exercises made or given, and 
Spiritual Exercises or The Spiritual Exercises (underlined for italici- 
zation) to mean his published book of directives for such exercises. 


But, we should remember, the early Jesuits were innocent of such dis- 
tinctions of editorial practice. As the manuscripts show, they simply 
wrote los ejercicios espirituales or exercitia spiritualia, without cap- 
itals, quotation marks, or underlining, to refer to any one of the cases 
or all of them. 

2. The authentic and integral Exercises in practice 
The case in which all the merits and praises of the Exercises are 
verified fully and eminently is that of the authentic and integral Exer- 
cises. Examples of exercitants whom Ignatius himself coached through 
them for a month are Castro in 1528, Favre and Xavier in or near 153^> 
Helyar in 1536 or 1537> and Nadal in 1 5^5 • In Ignatius' and his com- 
panions 1 ordinary practice of giving these authentic and integral Exercises 
the following characteristics were present. 

There was (1) one director (2) personally guiding for a full month 
(3) one exercitant (4) who was voluntarily and eagerly making the inte- 
gral Exercises (5) for the first time in his life and (6) for the serious 
purpose of discovering how he could best comply with God's good pleasure 
for him, for example, either by choosing a state of life or by improving 
his spiritual life within an already permanent state. 

To each of these six characteristics of the ordinary practice iso- 
lated or partial exceptions will perhaps be found. They show that even 
here Ignatius' practice was supple rather than rigid. More frequently 
these retreats centered around an election of a state of life, but often 
they did not. Xavier, for example, had made his election before beginning 
the Exercises; and in them he sought greater fervor in carrying it out. 
Often the director and retreatant knew each other well before the Exer- 
cises began. These authentic Exercises were conducted, not by one-way 
communication from director to retreatant (as is usually the case in 
retreats to a group), but by dialogue between the director and exercitant. 

Ordinarily the director visited him rather briefly once a day or every 
other day, but longer or more frequently if reason arose. Thus the two 
came to know each other well even if they had been previously unacquainted, 


and the director could adapt his presentation to the motions of grace or 
other needs of the one exercitant. Genuine discernment of spirits could 
take place under the director's guidance. When this discernment is gen- 
uine, it is usually a lengthy, time-consuming process spread out over 
many days and one to which a definite point of termination cannot be set 
in advance. The exercitant also had abundant time for solitude in which 
he could open himself to God's visitations. The unctuous pondering of 
the topics, one by one according to the director's guidance in a sequence 
revealing God's quest of man throughout the history of salvation and man's 
response, was a novel spiritual experience. Hence it generally produced 
a strong psychological impact, which was often the vehicle of extraordi- 
narily strong grace. During the thirty days a director could also continue 


his ordinary occupations, or direct several exercitants simultaneously. 

But he did not guide them in an assembled group. 

In the authentic Exercises, the role of the director was of great 
importance and original in many respects. Although treatises on spiri- 
tual exercises anterior to Ignatius, such as Cisneros' Ejercitatorio , 
presupposed a director, they were addressed primarily to the exercitant. 

An important original feature of Ignatius' book was that it was addressed 


primarily to the director. It was not a book for a tyro athlete about 

"How to Play Tennis," but rather one for his coach on "How to Coach a 
Capable and Eager Player," allowing full play to his own activity, energy, 
openness to God, and ingenuity under His grace. The role expected of the 
director can be compared to that of an orchestra leader. On paper is a 
set of notes. One director or set of musicians can follow them with 
minute accuracy and still produce a dull performance. Another director 
can take those same notes, instruments, and musicians, and through them 
he can create, so that everything is life and inspiration. Ignatius' 
ideal director had to be like the latter director. His function was to 
stimulate the exercitant' s desires, moderate his progress and speed 
through the sequence of topics, ask how the contemplations were succeeding, 
be available for counseling and help in discerning the spirits. But it 
was also to make himself superfluous, that is, to let God deal directly 


with the exercitant that he might himself carry on henceforward by 
energy from within. 

After a given contemplation was completed, Ignatius often handed it 
in written form to the exercitant as an aid for reviewing; but he did not 
give him the whole sheaf of his notes in advance. After the sheaf became 
a printed book in 15^-8, Ignatius was reluctant to communicate it to those 
who had not first made the Exercises. To Alexis Pontana, who had requeste 
a copy of the book, he wrote on October 8, 1555: "I am sending you a book 
of the Exercises, that it may be useful to you. . . . The fact is that 
the force and energy of the Exercises consists in practice and activity, 
as their very name makes clear; and yet I did not find myself able to 

refuse your request. However, if possible, the book should be given only 

after the Exercises have been made." Clearly, therefore, the sheaf of 

notes, and later the printed book, was the body of the Exercises and the 

director their life-giving soul. 

3. Authentic adaptations of the integral Exercises before 1556 
Prom the start Ignatius built capacity for adaptation into his method 
(SjdEx, [18-20]). Hence for persons unable for whatever reasons to go 
through the integral Exercises, the early Jesuits devised multifarious 
adaptations to fit the circumstances. Some persons came to prepare for 
a general confession and the Jesuits selected those exercises deemed 
most likely to help them. Some exercitants came with no precise aim but 
a vague desire of spiritual progress through these Exercises whose praises 
they had heard from others. Some came to learn the art of prayer, some to 
reform their lives, some to seek spiritual direction, some hoping to learn 
a way to greater perfection. The Jesuit directors adjusted their proce- 
dure to each case. Ignatius commended these adaptations in his letters 
(e.g., Epplgn , I, 388 in 1546), his book ( SpEx , [18-20]), and his Consti- 
tutions (e.g., [98, 196, 409, 649]). For example, one capable of much 
progress but too occupied to apply all his time to the Exercises could 
make them by devoting an hour and a half a day for several months 
(SdEx, [19])« His general outlook appears in Constitutions, [649]: 



The Spiritual Exercises should not be given in their entirety 
except to a few persons, namely, those of such a character that 
from their progress much fruit is expected for the glory of God. 
But the exercises of the first week can be made available for 
large numbers; and some examinations of conscience and methods 
of prayer (especially the first of those which are touched on 
in the Exercises) can also be given far more widely; for any- 
one who has good will is probably capable of these exercises. 

The use of capitals and underlining in the passage just above is 

that of modern editing. A glance at these words, and those of Examen, 

[98] cited just below, as they appear in the photographic copy of the 

manuscript of the Constitutions, quickly shows that Ignatius wrote merely 

the one term, "ejercicios" or "ejercicios espirituales" to mean either 

(1) ordinary spiritual activities, or (2) the whole sequence of the 

integral and authentic Exercises, or (3) adaptations of them, or (4) the 

published book itself. Close scrutiny of the context usually reveals 

precisely which meaning he had in mind, but occasionally one is left in 

doubt . 

It is now sufficiently clear that when the early Jesuits could not 
get the whole of the Exercises, they devised adaptations and took what- 
ever fraction they could. Their ingenuity in devising adaptations to 
fit emerging circumstances, and that of their successors right down to 
today, remains praiseworthy, even if some of those adaptations may need 
further adjustment to remain effective and attractive today. 

II. The chief adaptations of the art form after 1556 

The new adaptations arose by gradual evolution chiefly after Ignatius 1 
death. Most of us are more familiar with them than with the authentic and 
integral Exercises as practiced in his day. The adaptations made within 
the first decades after 1556 can usually be detected in germ in the prac- 
tice during his lifetime, but their actual appearance and form came only 
later as a result of adjustments to new circumstances. Our treatment 
here will embrace (A) repetitions of the Exercises, (B) the Exercises 
given to assembled groups, (c) some difficulties arising from the adap- 
tations, and (D) the terminology used in official documents from 1556 
until today. 


A. Repetitions of the Exercises 

Ignatius commended repititions of individual exercises within the 

integral Exercises (e.g., in SpEx , [62, 11 8, 164]), and of some of them 

on other occasions long after the thirty-day experience of them had been 

completed. He wrote that as a novice came to the time of vows toward 

the close of his two years of novitiate, 

He should previously recollect himself for a period of one week, 
to make his confession better and to confirm himself in his 
first determination. During this time, too, he should make 
some of the former Exercises or some others. Afterwards he will 
make his oblation and vows ... (Examen, [98]). 

But he does not appear to have envisaged an abbreviated repetition of the 

whole sequence of exercises in his book, at least as an ordinary thing for 

Jesuits. Neither did he expect a repetition of the thirty-day retreat. 

An exception to this statement may seem to be the case of Adalbert Bautek, 

recounted among the instances of haphazard early practice reported by 

Nadal. But we do not know that Ignatius was involved in what Bautek did. 

He made the Exercises for 18 days three times at Ingolstadt before he 

entered the Society in 1556, and later at Rome one time for eight days 


and another for ten. The obligation of tertian fathers to repeat the 

thirty-day retreat is first clear from the undated Re^ulae Instructoris 
patrum tertiae probationis (instSJ, III, 11 8), which refers back to Gen- 
eral Congregation XII of 1682. The practice of the short retreat that 

condensed the whole of the Exercises into eight or ten days was begun in 

1 f\ 
1588 by Canisius. 

Decree 29 of General Congregation VT in 1609 obliged all Jesuits to 

make the Spiritual Exercises for eight or ten days each year. This 

decree had a widespread effect both inside and outside the Society. 
Hitherto the Exercises had been made on special occasions, most of them 
rare or extraordinary; henceforth they were to be made annually. The 
practice became prevalent not only in the Society but in virtually all 
other religious communities. The words of Pope Benedict XIV in his 
Apostolic Letter Quantum secessus clearly presuppose this widespread prac- 
tice. In 1917, the Code of Canon Law made "exercitia spiritualia" 


obligatory annually for all religious (Canon 595, 1 ) and every three years 
for diocesan priests (Canon 126). This does not oblige them to the Igna- 
tian Exercises or their practices, such as silence. Some bishops and 
superiors have desired them and others have preferred other methods.' 

B. The Exercises given to assembled groups 
The giving of the Exercises to small groups seemingly occurred, on 
a small scale, among the early Jesuits. In 1 551 Jay gave the Exercises 
to Cardinal Truchsess "and others" in the abbey of Ottobeuren. Possibly 
this was a group retreat. In 1555 Ignatius wrote of the possibility of 
one nun giving the Exercises to several others. Gradually later on 

retreats in common were held to promote the reform of religious commu- 

1 8 
nities, for example in Freiburg, Switzerland, in 1590. 

Retreat houses also arose through a slow evolution. In a letter of 
15^7, Ignatius expressed his desire to have a special house for training 

the novices, which could also serve for those who wished to make the Exer- 

cises, and where skilled directors could be stationed. The idea of 

retreat houses is here in germ, but its realization had to wait. For 

long the Exercises were given in the ordinary houses of the Society, and 

especially in the colleges. In 1599 Aquaviva advised generosity in 

receiving retreatants in them. In 1579 St. Charles Borromeo built a 

house for giving retreats. Others too began to appear. In 1628 at 

Beauvais St. Vincent de Paul initiated retreats in common for ordinands. 

One of them was made by Louis Eudo de Kerlivio, who as a priest in 1660 

devoted a building, originally planned to be a seminary, to the giving 

of retreats of eight days to ecclesiastics and others. The Jesuit Vincent 

Huby enthusiastically cooperated. From this time on retreat houses for 

men and women, and also group retreats, multiplied first in France, and 

then also in Italy, Spain, Austria, Bohemia, and Poland. In these houses 

"closed retreats" were given to groups numbering sometimes a hundred per- 

sons. Retreats were also given to religious communities, e.g., in 


Still further adaptations came with the passing of time: group 


retreats further abbreviated — to five days, to three, sometimes to two 
or even one day. Not infrequently these abbreviated retreats "preached" 
to groups were still called, by retreat masters or in the promotional 
literature of retreat houses, "the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius," 
either because they consisted of a selection of exercises from the first 
week of Ignatius' book, or because they followed its general sequence 
of thought. Those making or writing such statements may have known that 
these adaptations were not the authentic Exercises; but too often their 
hearers or readers did not. A climate arose in which it became increas- 
ingly difficult to escape the trap of applying to adaptations statements 
of praise which in reality are valid only of the authentic and integral 

C. Some difficulties arising from the adaptations 
All too often in human affairs, solution of one difficulty soon gen- 
erates a new problem. The adaptations of the Exercises did not escape 
this misfortune. Virtually all these adaptations were good for their 
purposes, usually the best practice possible in the circumstances. But 
undesirable effects became apparent in time. Each new adaptation was so 
small a departure from immediately preceding practice that it excited no 
apprehension. But when we today after some four centuries compare the 
practice we have known with the procedure used during Ignatius' lifetime, 
we find the difference truly great. Important examples of the difficulties 
are these. 

Genuine discernment of spirits is an important part of the authentic 
Exercises. It is sometimes attended by danger of self-deception, and is 
usually a complicated process requiring long cooperation in several lei- 
surely visits or discussions between the exercitant and a capable director 
who knows him well. In the adaptations, especially the retreats preached 
to groups, genuine discernment became difficult or impossible in proportion 
to the size of the group and the fewness of days. 

Furthermore, when religious were making the Exercises annually, and 
in some cases largely because of the obligation and with some reluctance, 


the psychological impact characteristic of the first encounter with the 
complete authentic Exercises was often much impaired or even destroyed. 
This was only natural. Nevertheless, it opened the way for the complaints 
that the Exercises are repetitious, dull, over-rated, no longer an effec- 
tive means to attain their own end with these retreatants. As already 
mentioned, the charge is usually invalid if applied to the authentic and 
integral Exercises when made for the first time. But it may well be a 
warning that further adjustment of the adaptations are necessary today 
or there may be few takers. Even the authentic though not integral Exer- 
cises can produce their proper effect only with exercitants who make them 
willingly and with some eagerness. A few decades ago if exercitants 
found themselves cold toward a retreat, they were willing to blame them- 
selves for lack of disposition or effort. They no longer react that way. 
In the present climate they clamor for a new system. This begets still 
another difficulty — or rather, a challenge, which we shall treat below. 

D. The terminology in official documents from 1556 until today 
During the centuries when the adaptations just described were slowly 
evolving, there were many official Jesuit and papal documents which dealt 
with the Exercises. In these documents too the one same term, "spiritual 
exercises," was used to mean (1) the authentic and integral Spiritual 
Exercises, or (2) adaptations of them such as abbreviated and obligatory 
retreats preached to a group, or (~3) ordinary spiritual activities such 
as daily exercises of piety, or (4) Ignatius' printed book. Hence arose 
great and even habitual imprecision in the use of the words "exercitia 
spiritualia." Even where writers used the terms with precision or the 
context made their meaning indubitable, readers could so easily read a 
different meaning into their words. Illustrative samples of these docu- 
ments follow. They preserve the same usage of capitals, small letters, 
and italics which is found in their sources, chiefly the Institutum 
Societatis Iesu , 3 volumes (Florence, 1892-1 893) and the Acta Romana 
Societatis Iesu (Rome, 1906-), abbreviated respectively as InstSJ and 


ARSJ . These sources are available in most of our houses. 

1 The Official Directory of 1599 ( InstSJ, III, 505) 
Prom the Introduction 

1. Among other instruments which God... has deigned to 
bestow upon our Society. . .the Spiritual Exercises stand in a 
place not at all the lowest... 

2. ...these Exercises consist of certain spiritual pat- 
terns ( document a ) which, as the preface to this book states 
...Ignatius composed... 

Prom Chapter 1 

7. It should be noted, however, if we speak of the 
integral and complete Exercises, that St. Ignatius thought they 
should be given, not to all indiscriminately, but only to a 
select few who seem to be capable of greater things. 

Prom Chapter 10. On the manner of giving the Exercises to Ours 

1. those entering the Society, all the integral 
Exercises should certainly be given, and according to the form 
laid down in the book. . . . 

2. Further on in the course of time, when it happens 
that they recollect themselves ( se colligant) to make Exercises, 
they ought to make them several times, for example, two or three, 
if not integral at least those of the first week, and also 
some meditations from the following weeks, such as the Kingdom 
of Christ, the incarnation, the Lord's temptation, the insti- 
tution of the Blessed Sacrament, the passion, and that to excite 
love, to the extent that opportunity and time allow. 

These passages manifestly mirror adaptations and new practices which 
had not yet taken shape in Ignatius' lifetime, such as the suggestion to 
repeat pretty much the whole sequence of the Exercises, two or three 
times. This is not yet the annual retreat. The phrase in Chapter 10, 
1 , "when they recollect themselves" to repeat Exercises is interesting 

2 Decree 29 of General Congregation VT, 1608 ( InstSJ, II, 302; 
cf. 551) 

... the Congregation decreed: ... 

2 . That each year all should devote themselves to the 
Spiritual Exercises for eight or ten continuous days, and that 
this might be done altogether efficaciously, the annual prac- 
tice of the Spiritual Exercises was established... 


3 General Congregation VII in 1 61 5 ( InstSJ . II, 326, cf. 552) 

Care should be taken that the annual Spiritual Exercises... 
should be made exactly by all . . . and that the proportion and 
method should be preserved which are customary in the integral 
Exercises. . . 

4 General Congregation XVIII in 1755 ( InstSJ, II, 444) 

[Superiors] should carefully see to it that ... the 
Spiritual Exercises are made accurately and fruitfully each 
year by each one. 

5 Quantum secessus of Pope Benedict XIV, March 19, 1753 ( InstSJ , 
I, 301) 

By 1750 the practice of short retreats preached to groups of laymen 

and laywomen, often in retreat houses, was widespread; and the giving of 

periodic group retreats to religious was also the ordinary practice. 

Hence it is reasonable to infer that these adaptations, rather than the 

authentic and integral Exercises, are what Pope Benedict XIV and his 

readers had chiefly in mind as they read the following words from his 

Apostolic Letter Quantum secessus of March 19, 1753 ( InstSJ, I, 301): 

Experience has shown how much those retreats removed 
from all the clash of human affairs, in which the faithful 
dwell for a while and exercise themselves in meditations per- 
taining to eternity . . . 

Indeed, since St. Ignatius ... composed that admirable 
book of Exercises . . . there has manifestly been no family of 
the Religious Orders which has not taken up this salutary 

6 General Congregation XXIV in 1892 ( InstSJ , II, 521) 

Here too, in the restored Society, short retreats for lay persons, 

rather than the authentic and integral Exercises, were the chief focus 

of attention when the Congregation recommended to the general that he 

should promote as vigorously as possible 

the spiritual care of men, especially of workers and the poor, 
and that he should strive to lead them, by means of the Spirit- 
ual Exercises and our. Sodalities, in accordance with the 
Society's pristine norm, to all the practices of piety and 
charity . . . 

7 Pr. Ledochowski, "On the Retreats of Ours," June 9, 1935, in 
( ARSJ , VTI, 178; Selected Writings of Father Ledpohowski , page 760) 


... I think it is hardly necessary to remind you that the Exer- 
cises of St. Ignatius, and not others, should be given to 
Ours . . . 

... we must never omit those meditations and contemplations 
which, in the Ignatian method, can be called fundamental: 
the Principle and Foundation . . the Kingdom of Christ . . . 
the Two Standards, the Three Classes .. the Three Degrees of 
Humility . . . the Contemplation for . . . Divine Love . . . 

8 Letter of Pr. Janssens "On the Spiritual Exercises, "July 2, 
1948 ( ARSJ , XI, 472; English in Woodstock Letters , LXXVTII 
(1949), 7 

Those essentials, which we should preserve as perfectly 
as possible when we ourselves make the Exercises or when we 
give them to Ours, seem to be approximately these: (a), that 
we should lay aside all concern for worldly matters . . . (b) 
That the soul itself should treat with God and be acted on by 
Him ... (c) That, with all due respect to the adaptation men- 
tioned in Annotation XVIII, those eager "to profit in every 
possible way" should make the Exercises "in the exact order 
in which they are set down, " omitting nothing from the medi- 
tations and contemplations which are proposed as necessary in 
the book of the Exercises. For example: ... the Foundation, 
... sin and hell in the first week are essential, likewise 
. . . the Kingdom . . . mysteries . . . Two Standards . . . Three 
Classes . . . Three Degrees of Humility . . . Passion and Resur- 
rection . . . Contemplation for Love . . . 

I think it useful to apply briefly, even to the Exercises 
given to externs, the three aforementioned points ... 

The third principle is that all the Exercises of our Holy 
Father be proposed to the exereitant in their totality and in 
the proper manner, even if he be a layman ... ( ARSJ. XI, 4-75, 
476, WL (1949), 10, 11). 

III. The practice of the authentic Exercises for today 
A. The authentic and integral Exercises 
The research of the past quarter century has vastly improved our 
knowledge of Ignatius' mystical gifts, of his Spiritual Exercises which 
in no small measure spring from and reflect his mystical prayer, and of 
the discernment of spirits which is so important a part of his Exercises, 
As a result, a restoration of the primitive practice of the Exercises is 
becoming more apparent today. The movement is still in its infancy but 
very promising. It arises partially from experimentation in the manner 
of giving and making the Exercises, and it affects both the authentic 


integral Exercises and adaptations which are clearly authentic because 
they contain so much genuine Ignatian practice, such as directed retreats 
of eight days. It seems that some comments on each type are in order, 
and that greater precision in the use of terminology will further them 

A. The authentic and integral Exercises 
The gradual restoration of the primitive practice in regard to the 
authentic and integral Exercises appears from these examples. Until 
some ten years ago, the thirty-day retreats in the Society's tertianships 
were group retreats in which the tertianmaster addressed the assembled 
retreatants for a half -hour or so five times a day. Now, thanks largely 
to the practice inaugurated by Father Maurice Schuermans at Tronchiennes , 
Belgium, which has been imitated so widely, almost all these retreats to 
tertians are directed retreats in which the instructor speaks to the 
exercitants as a group perhaps once a day but also visits each retreatant 
every one or two days for private direction. As a result of the present 
transitional unrest in the Church, many provinces have suffered a con- 
siderable decrease of vocations. Prom this misfortune, one good drawn 
by Providence is already visible. In at least three instances known to 
the present writer (at Milford, Poughkeepsie, and Florissant), masters 
of novices have guided novices through the long retreat on a one to one 
basis. Usually one instructor guided several novices simultaneously, 
as was done also in Ignatius' lifetime. In the tertianship of the 
Religious of the Cenacle in Rome, the thirty-day retreat to the tertian 
sisters has been given as a directed retreat. The Exercises of thirty 
days have been given with marked success to laymen and laywomen, espe- 
cially to sodalists, at Cleveland. Usually this was done with small 
groups. But the Jesuit directors there, building on their past exper- 
ience, are laying plans for further progress, experimentation, and 
development in the future. No doubt there are other instances of 
approach or experimentation unknown to the present writer, toward resto- 
ration of the primitive practice of the authentic and integral Exercises. 


But these suffice for the present. The number of those who made the 
integral Exercises in the early Society was comparatively small and the 
work spread only slowly. We too must be content with a slow but solid 
spread. But we can and should work, where possible, toward providing 
opportunities for those select few who of themselves desire to make the 
Ignatian Spiritual Exercises according to their authentic and complete 

B. Adaptations which are still authentic Ignatian Exercises 
Among the adaptations dating from the early post-Ignatian era 
which clearly long remained the authentic (even though not integral) 
Ignatian Exercises, the abbreviated retreat of eight days made annually 
by religious is perhaps the most important, at least in the Society. 
Its nearness to being the authentic Exercises slowly diminished in pro- 
portion to its becoming a preached retreat and to its admitting greater 
and greater numbers. To name some number as a cut off point would be 
an arbitrary and controverted procedure. Nevertheless, when exercitants 
were preached to as an assembled group and numbered one or two hundred, 
one can safely say that the retreat had ceased to merit the name of 
authentic Ignatian Exercises. The body, the sequence of topics, may 
have remained, but the soul, the activity of the director, was no longer 
that of the authentic Ignatian practice. Moreover, genuine discernment 
of spirits could scarcely take place. 

However, a modern restoration of the authentic practice of the 
Ignatian era is happily under way, especially in the directed eight-day 
retreats. Especially with our scholastics, experiments in great variety 
have been under way the past few years. Scholastics, sometimes singly 
or sometimes in a small group, have made their annual retreat under the 
direction of an experienced father. Some of these experiments retained 
perhaps too many of the characteristics of a group retreat; but many 
also resulted in a recovery of authentic Ignatian practice, with the 
order, methods, and other important characteristics of the authentic 
and integral Exercises proportionately preserved. Rather similar 


experiments have been conducted successfully in retreats of sisters, 
brothers, and priests. In one American province of the Religious of 
the Cenacle, a center to train directors who can give the authentic 


Exercises is being established, and four sisters appointed for this pur- 
pose are now carrying the project into practice. There is good reason 
to hope that our growing knowledge of what the authentic practice was 
in the Ignatian and early post-Ignatian eras will cause these efforts 
and experiments to be more and more fruitful. 

Success in this work will obviously require much updating adap- 
tation from what the Exercises were in practice when Vatican II opened 
in 1962. wnen Ignatius and his contemporaries endeavored to communicate 
their religious experiences with others by means of the framework of the 
Exercises, the terms and language they used were the latest updating in 
their era of the spiritual doctrine, practice, and terminology of the 
late Middle Ages. When for similar purposes we use that framework, 
which in its major structures is still serviceable today, we must make 
it carry the spirituality and terminology of Vatican Council II and its 

era. Happily, books and essays which offer suggestions for such adap- 


tation are abundant. 

C. Further adaptations inspired by the Exercises 
However, many of the most knotty problems which impede the giving 
of the Spiritual Exercises today are connected with the legitimacy of 
adaptations. Some adjustments, such as a directed eight-day retreat, 
are clearly within the category of the authentic Exercises. Others at 
an opposite pole have clearly passed outside that category, for example, 
two days of lectures, with dialogue, films, and music, about the Chris- 
tian attitude on race. These are indeed spiritual exercises altogether 
praiseworthy for their purpose, but also something simply different from 
the Ignatian Exercises. In between the two poles are innumerable gra- 
dations and just where to draw the dividing line will ever be controversial. 
Yet in making adaptations a point is reached beyond which the result cannot 
honestly be called the authentic Exercises of Ignatius. 


1 . Some problems and challenges 
Vexed by the problem just indicated, Jesuit fathers general and 
other superiors have issued cautions against excesses in adaptation, for 
example, by directives issued in 1935 and 19^8. These official pro- 
nouncements achieved much good, especially amid the circumstances of 
their own decades. To criticize them unfavorably today would be ungra- 
cious and anachronistic. Like other things human, however, such 
pronouncements have now brought on new problems. In a situation so 
fraught with intangibles, the cautions have occasioned perplexed con- 
sciences in many loyal Jesuits. Even amid the vastly altered and still 
rapidly changing mentalities of our post-conciliar era, zealous retreat 
masters have feared to make further adaptations in eight-day or three-day 
group retreats, even in cases where these further adaptations seemed 
altogether necessary if these spiritual activities were to remain effec- 
tive means with certain audiences to attaining the end of the Exercises 
today. Aggiornamento of the official directives for the Exercises is as 
necessary as that for the Code of Canon Law. 

This problem is manifestly delicate because it involves official 
pronouncements of fathers general; and only equally high authority can 
give official modifications or interpretations of them. However, studies 
and discussions on a horizontal level can prepare the way for an updating 
of official directives on the Exercises which must come from above. If 
the problems presented to modern minds by these past pronouncements on 
the Exercises are to be solved, frank though reverent discussion seems 
necessary. Here too, it seems, considerable help toward a solution can 
be gained from study of the terminology used in the past and then, with 
the help of such clarification, from devising a more precise terminology 
for the future. 

The problem can be put clearly if we take some sample past pro- 
nouncements. In the passages cited above (pages 19 and 20), Fathers 
Ledochowski in 1935 and Jannsens in 19^8 listed certain topics as approx- 
imately essential if the Exercises, as given to Jesuits or even to extern 


are to remain authentic. The list opened the way for all too many to 
infer, not only then but even in recent years, that if a retreat master 
included those topics, for example in an eight-day retreat to a hundred 
assembled sisters, he had given the authentic Exercises. But such a 
retreat is already an adaptation advanced rather far from the authentic 
ancient practice of the Exercises as known from recent research. If 
circumstances, such as the obligation imposed by canon law or the dearth 
of retreat masters, make such retreats necessary, is it not better per- 
haps to call them something like "adaptations inspired by the Exercises"? 

Another aspect of the problem can be illuminated from the following 
replies of Father Ledochowski. 

a. On giving the Exercises according to the mind of St. Ignatius. 
May 12, 1922 (ARSJ, III, 48o) 

In regard to the giving of sacred retreats by Ours, I 
wish to give this admonition and to recommend to Your Reverences, 
that they should always be given as faithfully as possible to 
the mind of St. Ignatius. For constant experience, to which 
very many bishops added the approval of their testimony this 
year, shows that the benefits deriving from retreats are more 
numerous and solid in proportion to their accuracy in following 
the norm of the golden book of the Exercises. If we keep that 
always in mind, externs, whether priests or laymen, will of their 
own accord come back again and again to our retreats. 

b. On the duration and method of the Exercises. June 24, 1924 
( ARSJ , V, 142) 

The principle should be held to as faithfully as possible 
that for making the Spiritual Exercises three integral days are 
necessary. . . 

However excellent social works are in themselves, the 
mingling of sermons on them into the Exercises cannot be toler- 
ated, even on pretext of better adapting the Exercises to our 
times. Let us preserve the Exercises precisely as our Holy 
Founder envisaged them and taught, by practice and word, that 
they should be given. Those who make retreats with us expect 
and desire this and nothing else from us. ... 

c. On the same topic. July 27, 1924 ( ARSJ , V, 1 4^) 

If on occasion shorter assemblies are judged opportune 
or are held through necessity, it is better to call them recol- 
lections , not "Exercises." 

Fathers applied to this work should make great effort 


that exercitants ponder in solitude the truths proposed in the 
Exercises. . .Therefore it also seems that the word preacher 
( concionator) should be avoided when there is question of 
giving the Exercises . . . 

d. On the same topic. February 1, 1926 (ARSJ, V, 573) 

... it would be an illusion to depart more or less, for 
the sake of variety or accommodation, from the genuine Exercises 
of St. Ignatius, and nevertheless expect the fruit which the 
Exercises themselves customarily produce . . . 

Those official statements are couched in a curial style which was 
customary then in the Roman Congregations of the Church and in religious 
orders too. The style was expected and acceptable then and the documents 
accomplished much good. But in our post-conciliar era when many desire 
a more realistic manner of expressing laws and directives, they contain 
elements which please and displease, all mingled together. They enshrine 
many sound ideals and wise suggestions which careful scrutiny reveals and 
which all of us desire to preserve as far as possible. But they are also 
one-sided in their presentation, ignore real difficulties which the loyal 
retreat masters have painfully experienced. Thus they create a credi- 
bility gap detrimental to hope and further effort. These directors have 
indeed found some retreatants who desire authentic Ignatian Exercises; 
but they have also found others who have loudly expressed their dissat- 
isfaction with them, spread their discontent at their imposition, and 
ceased to invite Jesuit retreat masters where once they were in popular 
demand. A legal pronouncement which cannot be applied successfully in 
practice is no longer a good means to preserve one's ideals, however 
sound they may be. The statements cited just above can scarcely be 
applied literally or rigidly today, in the manner which was once so 
often used with laws in Anglo-Saxon culture. The inconveniences are so 
great that excusing causes are present in innumerable cases. Hence it 
is important to find some better way to express the ideals which avoids 
the features which irritate the modern mind. 

At least part of the difficulty lies in the terminology. Although 
Father Ledochowski used the term Spiritual Exercises, he was referring 


chiefly to eight-day or three-day group retreats, many of them obligatory 
periodic repetitions. This is clear from such phrases as "externs ... will 
come back again and again," "for making the Spiritual Exercises three in- 
tegral days are necessary," shorter assemblies would be better named "rec- 
ollections." Hence what he is discussing is something already outside the 
authentic and integral Exercises. Possibly everything short of those in- 
gral Exercises ought to be designated by "recollection" or some other 
suitable term. Moreover, since these adaptatations are already outside 
the authentic Ignatian Exercises, their being adapted further still ought 
not to be feared as much as it has been in the past. 

Still another aspect of our contemporary problem is this. Ignatius 
regarded the Exercises as means to their general end: some form of 
increased union with God. This is true both of the integral Exercises 
and their clearly legitimate adaptations. Ignatius regarded them as 
means of exceptional efficacy, but not as the only means to their end or 
as necessarily the best means for all persons. In any case their end, 
increased union with God, is more important than the means. 

The authentic and integral Exercises can yield their full fruit only 
for one who makes them voluntarily and with some eagerness; and this is 
proportionately valid of adaptations like the annual obligatory retreat 
for religious. Canon law obliges them to make spiritual exercises, but 
not the Ignatian Exercises. It may well happen that this or that reli- 
gious has a mental block against the Ignatius Exercises. He may find 
them, for example, too repetitious, or monotonous, or that they no longer 
produce for him an impact of spiritual experience, and all the rest we 
nowadays so often hear. For such a one, some other form of spiritual 
exercises, such as those customarily conducted by priests of other orders, 
may well be a better means to the end of the Ignatian Exercises than 
these Exercises made with reluctance or lethargy. To compel him to make 
the Ignatian Exercises would seem to be against Ignatius ! own principle: 
There is no worse mistake in spiritual things than to desire to lead 
others by the same path one follows for himself. To compel him would 


also be to acquire an unfavorable press-agent. 

In our modern circumstances it seems to be highly important for us 
to devise facilities through which those who desire, comparatively few 
though they may be, to make the authentic and integral Exercises, or 
their clearly legitimate adaptations, can do so. Then, in regard to 
those who desire or need some spiritual exercises but will not make the 
authentic Exercises voluntarily, we need not fear further adaptations 
as much as we did in the past. We feared that we might step outside 
the pale of the authentic Ignatian Exercises. Now, however, we see more 
clearly that we were already outside that pale. 

2. The authentic Exercises and those of the Movement for a 
Better World 

The spiritual exercises of the Movement for a Better World can be 

called an original and highly modern adaptation which was inspired by 

the Exercises of St. Ignatius. Since the Holy See has requested the 

Society to promote this movement and since Pope Paul VT has again 

commended it so strongly on March 12, 1969, it seems wise to discuss it 

briefly here. Some, hitherto able to have only a vague or fragmentary 

knowledge of this movement, have expressed apprehensions that its 

retreats might conflict or compete with the Ignatian Exercises. 

To begin with the basic information, the Movement for a Better World 
aims to infuse into individuals and groups the spirit of mutual charity 
and unity which bring about the social presence of Christ. The movement 
was begun by the well-known Italian Jesuit and radio orator, Father Ric- 
cardo Lombardi. It took its name from the message of February 10, 1952, 
in which Pope Pius XII called himself "the herald of a better world 
willed by God" and asked for a renewal of the structures of Society 
(MS, XLIV [1952], 158-162). Father Lombardi responded by organizing 
spiritual exercises or retreats of five to ten days, based largely on 
the doctrine of the Mystical Body and Christian community. Under the 
guidance of a "retreat team," usually consisting of a priest, a reli- 
gious (brother or sister), and a layman (often a husband or wife), the 


retreatants of the group endeavor not merely to study Christian com- 
munity but to live it, by means of sharing their religious experiences 

and dialoguing about them throughout the days of the retreat. 


Since 1952 thousands of these retreats have been conducted in over 
twenty countries, and especially in Rocca di Papa, near Rome, for large 
numbers of Bishops (including Council Fathers), diocesan and religious 
priests, nuns, lay men and women. Promotional groups have now been 
established on every continent. For use in these retreats Father Lom- 
bardi composed his book, Esertazioni per un mondo Migliore (Rome, 1958). 
The English adaptation is Towards a New World (New York, 1958). This 
handbook is addressed principally to the exercitant and enables him to 
review and study more extensively what the director presented in attrac- 
tive but sketchy manner. In this orientation it differs a little from 
Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises , which is addressed primarily to the di- 
rector. Father Lombardi has recently revised these retreats into 
exercises in the spirituality of Vatican Council II. He correspondingly 
revised his earlier book into Per vivere il Concilio [Toward Living Out 
the Council] (Milano, 1968), of which an English translation is in pro- 
gress. He has also established the Centro Internazionale Pio XII at 
Rocca di Papa. At this Center, one of the pastoral activities is a 
succession of ten-week Institutes on Post-Conciliar Spirituality, in 
various languages. These Institutes are for any persons who are engaged 
in the renewal of the Church, and especially for those who are involved 
in the spiritual formation of others. The first of these courses ended 
in mid-March, 1969. Just before its close, on March 12 Pope Paul VT 
addressed to those finishing it, as well as the multitude thronging 
St. Peters, the words of strong praise which appeared on the front page 
of Osservatore Romano for that date. (The English text is in the 
English edition of March 20, page 12, with the picture on page 1). The 
American headquarters are: Movement for a Better World, 127 R Street, 
N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002. 

Father Lombardi and two American Jesuits, Fathers John Comey and 


Eugene Tucker, conducted one of his retreats at Florissant, Missouri, 
March 28 - April 5, 1969, for s:Lxty-two Jesuits from nine provinces. 
The present writer made this retreat. He found it an impressive spir- 
itual experience, particularly appropriate for the era of tensions in 
which we live. This experience led him to the following opinions. 

The authentic Ignatian Exercises and the exercises in post-conciliar 
spirituality of the Better World Movement are supplementary to each other 
and not in conflict or competition. Both have the same general goal: to 
bring the exercitant to some form of increased union with God and to com- 
mitment to leaven his social environment. But this common target is 
approached from different directions. The direct thrust of the Ignatian 
Exercises is to stimulate the individual to close union with God that he 
may improve his social environment as an apostle. The direct thrust of 
the exercise of the Better World Movement is to stimulate the individual 
to improve his communitarian environment in accordance with God's plan, 
through better knowledge and love of his neighbors. He soon becomes 
aware that for this he must be personally united with God. 

The common target is also approached by different means. In the 
Ignatian Exercises, silence is an important means, to enable the exer- 
citant to commune better with God and make himself open to His lights. 
In the Better World exercises, this means is replaced by another, a 
special type of dialogue carefully directed toward fostering under- 
standing and love. By this dialogue exercitants who were previously not 
well acquainted with one another, or perhaps even at variance, come to 
know one another as persons, sympathetically understand one another's 
points of view, and live together in cooperative Christian charity. 

Each type of exercises is well suited to achieve results which the 
other is less likely to produce. The Ignatian Exercises seem better 
suited to lead one to a deeper and stronger personal union with God. 
But he might well exercise this union for a long time, for example, by 
examining his conscience diligently and honestly, without discovering 
that he is misunderstanding his brethren or irritating them. The Better 


World exercises are better suited to awaken him to this oversight and 
enable him to take his part better in his Christian communitarian func- 
tioning. In our day the Church, many religious communities, and parishes 


are filled with tensions and polarities: between progressives and con- 
servatives, the old and young, black and white, legalists and anti-legalists, 
and what not else. Father Lombardi is deeply convinced that the precisely 
directed dialogue of his exercises is an important means to help in saving 
the Church or the communities within it amid these tensions. He also has 
solid reasons to believe, as he told us, that a similar opinion of Arch- 
bishop Benelli and of the Holy Father is what prompted the latter 8 s public 
commendation of the movement on March 12, 1969. 

Some exercitants, too, have a temperament better satisfied spiritually 
by the Ignatian Exercises, others a temperament better fulfilled by those 
of the Better World. Almost any one person would do well to profit on 
some occasions from the Ignatian Exercises or their adaptations, and at 
other times by those of the Movement for a Better World. Father Lombardi 
recounted an opinion expressed by one experienced spiritual director with 
which he agreed: for many a person a truly beneficial sequence of spiri- 
tual experiences would consist of a cursillo to give a spiritual shock or 
awakening to one who needed it, then the Ignatian Exercises to add lasting 
depth to the conversion, and finally, after some years, a Better World 
retreat to add dimensions which even the Ignatian Exercises may have 
missed or allowed to recede into oblivion. Father Lombardi also thought 
that a Better World retreat made occasionally as a substitute for the 
annual Ignatian retreat would be a benefit to almost any Jesuit. The 
Ignatian and Lombardian exercises are indeed supplementary rather than 
conflicting or competitive. 

Concluding reflections 

The chief threads of this entire study can now be drawn together in 
concluding reflections. A restoration of the authentic and integral 
Ignatian Exercises, in accordance with their primitive practice now 
better known from recent research, is fortunately gaining momentum. These 


authentic Exercises, especially when integral, provide a far better sit- 
uation in which the primal power of Ignatius' Exercises can produce their 
proper effect. That inner dynamism and the religious experience it can 
bring are more important than the art form which is the means to the end 
and from which so many difficulties and controversies have arisen. To 
foster this growing movement by providing facilities for such retreatants 
and their directors should be numbered among our more important 

There are, too, adaptations which are the authentic even though not 
integral Exercises of Ignatius. These also merit from us a special care 
and effort. They preserve the genuine practice of the more skillful 
directors of the Ignatian era. Examples are directed retreats — of 
eight days or even less, for priests, religious, or lay persons. These 
Exercises aim to obtain whatever fraction of the fruit of the complete 
authentic Exercises is possible in the circumstances. To foster this 
growing movement by providing facilities for such retreatants and dir- 
ectors should also be numbered among our more important ministries. 

There are other adaptations which drew their original inspiration 
from the Ignatian Exercises but have advanced so far from them that now 
they can scarcely be called authentic Spiritual Exercises of St. Igna- 
tius. Yet they accomplish much good. And they are far more effective 
to achieve the general end of his Exercises, some form of increased 
union with God, than these authentic Exercises are if thrust upon 
persons reluctant to make them. Since they are scarcely Ignatian Exer- 
cises to start with, we can feel freer than formerly to adapt them far- 
ther still. Little can be gained by worry or discussion as to whether 
this or that form of these exercises has or has not passed over some 
hairline supposed to divide legitimate from excessive adaptations of the 
Ignatian Exercises. It seems more important to use whatever means is 
available to make such retreats more attractive and effective with 
retreatants, even in large groups, who will draw some spiritual profit 
from them but who cannot be reached today by the authentic Exercises 
of Ignatius. 


In all our efforts in this line, it seems, help will be gained by 
developing greater precision of terminology than we have used in the 
past, or even by devising a new nomenclature which more clearly and 


unmistakably distinguishes the separate types of spiritual exercises or 
retreats. The terminology, or even slogan, might be something like the 
following. The authentic and integral Spiritual Exercises of St. Igna- 
tius — for the capable few who desire them. The authentic adapted 
Spiritual Exercises — for those who desire them but have a sound reason 
not to make the integral Exercises. Other recollections, spiritual 
exercises, spiritual activities, or retreats — for those who can profit 
from them but do not of their own accord desire the authentic Ignatian 
Exercises. Some such procedure may well make Ignatius' Spiritual Exer- 
cises more effective in producing their proper effect and in functioning 
as a gradually spreading leaven today. 





— Archivum historicum Societatis Iesu 

— De Guibert, Joseph, S.J. The Jesuits: Their Spiritual 

Doctrine and Practice (Chicago, 1964) 

— S. Ignatii ... Epistolae et Instructiones . 12 vols. 

— Institutum Societatis Iesu . 3 vols. (Florence, 


Letterslgn — Letters of St. Ignatius . Trans. W.J. Young (Chicago, 1959) 

5 vols. MHSJ (Madric, 1898- 




— Epistolae P. Hieronymi Nadal 

1905; Rome, 1962) 

— The New Catholic Encyclopedia . (New- York, 1 967) 

— The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius 

See DeGuiJes , esp. pp. 80-83, 115-116, 122, 125, 131-132, 237, 
301-306, 489-^92, 533, 540-542, 683-685. Father De Guibert wrote 
from 1935 until his death in 1942. However, his work was published 
in French only in 1953 and in English only in 1964. See also Ig- 
nacio Iparraguirre , S.J., Historia de la practica de los Ejercicios 
espirituales de san Ignacio de Loyola , vol. I, ... en vida de su 
autor (1522-1556) (Rome, 1946); vol. II , ... hasta la promulgacion 
del Directorio oficial (1556-1599 ) (Rome, 1955), esp. I, 29*"33*, 
4 2 *-44*, 164-216. 

A book on the many new forms of retreats currently emerging in colleges 
and universities is being prepared by Fathers James Blumeyer, S.J., and 
Frank Gross, and will be published soon by Fides Press, Notre Dame, 

Autobiography , nos. 99"100, cited in DeGuiJes , p. 41 . 

Epplgn , I, 687; Letterslgn , p. 159. 

Autobiography , no . 57 • 

Ibid . , no . 67 . 

Ibid ., no. 99. 

L. Hertling, "De usu nominis Exercitiorum Spiritualium ante S.P. 
Ignatium, " AHSJ , II (1923), 316-318. 

SpEx . [1]. 


10 DeGuiJes, esp. pp. 125, 131 "132; Iparraguirre, Historia, I, 19*-^ 











Iparraguirre , I , 1 65 . 

Ibid., I, 166. 

Ibid ., I, 32*"33*. 

Epplgn , IX, 701 . 

MonNad, II, 527-589; cf. DeGuiJes, p. 82. 

NCathEnc , XIII, 578; cf . M. Viller and M. Olphe-Galliard, in 
Revue d'ascetique et de mystique , XV (193^0 > ^"33« 

InstSJ , II, 302; cf. DeGuiJes , p 
DeGuiJes , p. 125. 
Errelgn , I, 603. 
DeGuiJes , pp. 303~304. 
DeGuiJes, p 


72, 303 73 , 

referring to Poncelet, Histoire, II, 399, 

Especially noteworthy is the collection of papers from the World 
Congress of the Exercises, held at Loyola, Spain, in 1966: Los Eje] 
cicios de san Ignacio a la luz del Vaticano II (Madrid: Biblioteca 
de Autores Cristianos, 1968). The Program to Adapt the Spiritual 
Exercises, 144 Grand Street, Jersey City, N.J. 07302, has made many 
of the most useful of these papers available in English, e.g., thos< 
by Fathers Dumeige, Granero, Iparraguirre, Lyonnet, Magana, Mollat, 
Solano, and Stanley. 

(p. 27) Acta Romana , XIV (1965), 600; cf. XIV (1962, 238-239; XIV 
(1966), 722-723. 

NCathEnc . X, 56.